When Information Becomes a Liability

Old information isn’t just a source of clutter. It can also be a potential liability. When sensitive information finds its way into the wrong hands, it can lead to trouble for your organization. Sometimes the damage is direct, in the case of corporate fraud. And sometimes it’s indirect, in the case of legal expenses following the accidental release of customer information.

In any case, data confidentiality demands that the liability must be controlled. It’s not enough to simply throw old documents away, as there are criminals who trawl through rubbish dumps looking for sensitive information. In many industries, shredding is a legal requirement, and there are codes and regulations controlling how documents are disposed of.

If documents can’t be thrown away, they must be destroyed. Once upon a time, that may have meant burning them – but that would cause smoke pollution, and it’s not 100% effective. Often, fragments of documents escape unburned, and there are even methods to retrieve text from paper that has been charred black.

Secure shredding is usually the best option for document destruction. Modern cross-cut shredders can turn documents into confetti that is impossible to read. This paper can then be recycled, or repurposed as filler or packing material.

There is a variety of options to suit your shredding needs. Individuals can buy a small office shredder. Typically, they’re about the size of a waste-paper basket, and they plug into a nearby power point. These models are not as powerful as industrial models, so you need to be careful not to jam them or leave staples in the paper, as they can damage the blades.

At the other extreme, there are modified box trucks that shred huge piles of documents as they are fed into it. Very few organizations shred enough documents to need to buy one, but they can be rented when very large numbers of documents must be disposed of quickly.

For most organizations, it makes sense to get a smaller shredder or to engage the services of a secure shredding company that specializes in destroying documents. This makes it easier to ensure data confidentiality, and also removes the burden of compliance to the company and allows you to get on with your business. They can deal with the cost of equipment and compliance issues concerning environmental regulations and other legal matters.